Japan’s top government spokesman refuted claims by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo that Japanese police are stopping foreigners in “suspected racial profiling incidents,” saying that police don’t interrogate suspicious individuals based on nationality or race.
The American Citizen Services section of the U.S. embassy posted an alert to U.S. citizens on Twitter on Dec. 6 saying that it had been receiving reports claiming that some foreigners were being “detained, questioned, and searched” by Japanese police in “suspected racial profiling incidents.”
It warned U.S. citizens to “carry proof of immigration and request consular notification if detained.”
The alert was not posted on the embassy’s website among its other alerts. The latest alert there was published on Dec. 3 about the need for COVID-19 testing to travel to the United States.
Commenting on the U.S. embassy’s Twitter alert, Japanese top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that if police felt the need to stop suspects for interrogation, they would not be basing their decisions on factors like ethnicity or nationality.
The alert follows Japan’s recent move to temporarily halt new arrivals of all foreigners over the new Omicron variant, becoming the second country after Israel to do so.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the move was to prevent “a worst-case scenario” in the country as researchers work to better understand the risks posed by the new mutations.
The new restrictions also require Japanese citizens and foreign residents re-entering Japan from overseas, where cases of the Omicron variant have been detected, to quarantine in designated facilities.
The country has reported three cases of Omicron as of Dec. 6, all of which had a travel history to high-risk countries. Japan was quick to detect its first case of Omicron just a day after imposing the travel bans, involving a Namibian diplomat who returned to Japan on Nov. 28.
The second case detected was a man in his 20s who traveled from Peru. Japan reported its third case of Omicron on Dec. 6, which involved a man in his 30s who had been to Italy. No details were provided on the patient’s nationality.
“From the view of prevention, we won’t just restrict new entry by foreigners but also returning foreigners with resident status, unless there are special extenuating circumstances,” Matsuno said on Dec. 1, adding that Japan will keep track of the outbreak situation in various countries to “respond quickly and flexibly.”
Japan is a country with a relatively homogenous society in terms of ethnic composition, with not many foreigners or Japanese of mixed-race.
In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, the U.S. Department of State said it “has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.”
“We have received multiple, credible reports in Japan of suspected racial profiling by police of foreigners, including U.S. citizens, and have conveyed these reports to the appropriate Japanese authorities,” the department said. “Our Tokyo Embassy American Citizens Services twitter account serves to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.”
Reuters contributed to this report.